Thursday, May 29, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

So I got pressed into service invited to participate in this blog hop by Marshall, whose own post is here. I am all for being handed a topic to blog on, so here goes!

1. What am I working on?

Currently working on a book about the Curator of Earth (a lofty title for one of the lowest positions in the Museum of Worlds) and the human girl who is helping him figure out why magical curses keep popping up all over the place.

2. How does my work differ from other works in the same genre?

In the case of my new WIP, I think one of the major differences is that the main characters are in a boy-girl friendship that doesn't involve any romance. I know that's unusual for YA and may even be a bit of a risk, but I think it's important to allow boys and girls just to be friends sometimes.

It's also a very whimsical adventure story, whereas I think a lot of YA books now strive for "dark" or "edgy."

3. Why do I write what I write?

To read what I want to read!

Sometimes I get ideas from dreams, but a lot of my ideas are driven by what I find myself wishing I could read. When I came up with The Never Silent, I thought of all my favorite elements of fantasy and fiction and combined them into one book.

Currently I'm in a very lighthearted phase of life, so my WIP is much more humorous and fun-loving.

Alternate answer: To make other people feel the way my favorite authors have made me feel after reading their books.

4. How does my writing process work?

My Big Idea for each book usually involves one or two key scenes or elements. This is my daydreaming (or sometimes even night dreaming) phase. I start with a spark.

Then comes research. Sometimes this is a massive time-suck. And then other times there's almost nothing to research at all.

Plot always comes next. I outline before I start writing anything, keeping my focus on story structure. The scenes I've been imagining find homes within the outline, and then I build up the rest to give the story a complete beginning, middle and end.

Next is character and voice. For The Never Silent this was a long process since I had to do a lot of research on the language. With my new WIP I'm still figuring out the voice as I work through the first draft.

And then, finally, comes the writing! Usually my first draft is very short. I put in the bare bones on the first draft, then by the final draft I've often got twice the word count I started out with.


That's it! Thanks, Marshall, for passing it my way!

And now I will tag Charlie, my agency sister, to work on if she gets a chance between baby and moving. (And best of luck on the move, Charlie!)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Baby Firsts and Photo Ops

According to my phone specs, I have 64GB of memory on my phone. At the moment, about 75% of that is full of baby pictures. Just pictures. Not even videos, because I systematically go through and back those up on my computer (with a duplicate backup on a remote drive) in order to make more room.

According to various sources who supposedly know these things (ie my mother), it's easy to keep on top of photos with the first child. Much harder when you have two.

If that's the case then clearly I'm failing. Only about the first two months of my son's life have made it past my phone into an album.

There are just so many firsts to photograph, you know? Baby's first laugh, baby's first swing ride, baby's first Christmas, baby's first finger foods (followed quickly by baby's first how-did-he-get-food-there???) and on and on and on.

We have some more firsts coming up soon. Baby's first haircut. (Hopefully not for a while longer yet, if I get my way, because it's just so cute when it curls up around his ear.) Baby's first birthday...

That's going to be a huge one. I always thought one-year-olds were too young to need birthdays, but after a year that seems to have been both the longest and shortest of my life, I'm pretty desperate to mark the occasion, even if the baby never remembers it.

Some of the other babies in my son's playgroup have already had their first birthdays, and I'm watching oh-so-closely to see what they all do. I didn't have these other moms in my life while I was pregnant (moms-to-be at that point, I guess) and so I only had baby showers. Which is apparently Doing It Wrong since I never had a gender reveal cake or anything. I didn't even hand decorate my own onesies! *gasp*

But now I know all about birthday party themes and professional birthday portraits and smash cakes. Which I had never heard of, but apparently they are the *other* cake you make so that the baby can play in it and put it all in his hair and shove handfuls of cake in his mouth without ruining the cake for all the guests. Yes, this is a thing.

It all sounds so ridiculous, and yet we do it anyway because two words: Photo Op!

So that we can *snap* *snap* *snap* eight dozen more pictures to sit on the phone, and then on the computer along with every other "baby's first" in our collection.

And why all that trouble? So that at baby's first wedding we can put them all in a slideshow so everyone can coo over how cute baby used to be?

No. No, we do it because we are moms, and as desperate as we are to mark occasions, we're even more desperate to treasure all the little moments.

We do it because the one thing everybody always tells us is "Enjoy these times, because they don't last long." So we take as many pictures as we can, because sometimes that's the only way we know how to capture the beautiful instants that are there and then gone so soon.

If I'm lucky, sometimes I'll have a moment in the evening to write down a memory of a special moment or a funny thing that my son did. I love going back and rereading the moments I've captured so far.

But I don't often get time for that. Sometimes all I can do is whip out the phone and capture a photo or a video.

So yes, I probably will do something ridiculous for my son's birthday, and my husband will probably shake his head and wonder what in the world has possessed me to celebrate a birthday the baby will never even remember. I will do it for me and for my memories.

And I will treasure every moment.

Until he cries, which he's bound to do if I overtax him with tons of birthday stuff he never even asked for. Maybe it's a good thing he'll never remember it...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

ArmadilloCon Plug

Six years ago I stumbled upon a mention of a fantasy/sci fi conference on the website of one of my favorite authors. Curiosity piqued, I checked out the con and discovered one of the best surprises of my writing career thus far: the ArmadilloCon Writers' Workshop. That summer (and the two following) I attended, and the three days I have spent workshopping with that con have taught me more about writing than any other three days of my life.

Six years ago I was six years less skilled at writing and had a much larger ego, the combination of which (as you might guess) is an ego deflation waiting to happen. I expected to go into that con with the first chapter of my beautiful book and be fawned over by fellow attendees and professional mentors alike. I was wrong. Instead I came away a bit more humbled than I hoped. But I also came away with a new critique partner, a lot more knowledge, and several connections to authors I still keep in touch with today.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to return the past three years (though I've had good reasons... such as giving birth!), and sadly I won't be able to go again this year. But ArmadilloCon will always have a very special place in my heart, and I will be back, if it takes me another three years to make that happen!

But if I can't go, I hope maybe one of you can. The workshop is one of the best values you'll find. And it's a quality experience! In the past authors like Scott Lynch, Paolo Bacigalupi and Martha Wells have been among the workshop mentors. I'm telling you, if you're an unagented writer hoping to publish one day, this experience is not one to miss!

So head over to the website and sign up now. The deadline for manuscript submissions is June 15th. And if you do go, tell me all about it when you get back!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Back in 8th grade science class I did a report on Mercury, aka Quicksilver, aka the coolest element on the Periodic Table (!!!). At least that was my opinion at the time. I remember almost nothing now about what I learned then, except for the part about Mercury being toxic. But I do remember being a little in awe of the element. And I remember that I thought it was pretty amazing how all these little "building blocks of matter" could be so different and combine to make even more things that were even more different.

I don't know if they still use these things in high schools now, but back then we had one of those roll down posters over the blackboard with the Periodic Table on it. (Or maybe I'm getting it confused with the maps in History class. The ones where the teacher would try to roll down the one of the US but always get the world map instead and have to fiddle with it for a few minutes.) The Periodic Table we were using was probably not new, and this was already about twenty years ago. If I remember correctly it only went up to element 109.

Last week I saw this article. We've just confirmed element 117. I don't know about you, but I find it pretty mind-boggling that we can actually create new elements. As if nature weren't amazing enough already, we're making extra-natural things. Like we're saying, "Hey, everything in known existence, you're great and all, but we'll do you one better."

So I have this shelf of books by my desk with all of my writing books and research books and "this sounds interesting, maybe I'll find an excuse to use it in a book" books. One of those is The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which I happen to be reading right now. It's about the story behind the periodic table--where elements came from and how we discovered them and the insane and dangerous and all-too-human things we do with them.

It's one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. I love it. It's making me fall in love with chemistry and the universe and science! all over again. In other words... Attention! Book recommendation! Read it!

I don't have a favorite element any more. (Except maybe Tungsten, because there's something about that name, and the fact that its symbol is a W, for Wolfram, which sounds cool too... I dunno, I just like it.) But I still love learning all these things. Makes me feel part of the amazing discoveries that we as humans are making all the time. Go team human.

How about you? Did you ever have a favorite element?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

This post got a little bit derailed.

Today has been a good day, guys. I'm getting into a rhythm with the WIP (work in progress) and remembering how much fun it is to write a first draft. Anything goes! Want to add a dragon to spice things up a bit? Insert that dragon! Want to experiment with dramatic irony?...

[And seriously it is so easy in a dual POV. Get character A needing one thing, and character B thinking character A needs the opposite, and BOOM! tension. Everybody wins. Except the characters. They really don't win.]

... Sprinkle liberal amounts of dramatic irony. LIBERAL AMOUNTS! And oh, you know what you haven't seen in a book in a while? A Shakespearean sonnet. Go ahead and add one of those too. That should do it.

It's great, because anything can be cut out later if it doesn't work. (Except the dragon. The world needs more dragons. Because then my son's first word could be dragon instead of cat, which it's looking like it might be.) Maybe that crazy idea will be absolutely ridiculous in retrospect. And guess what! Nobody has to know--that's what revision is for. But maybe it'll be totally brilliant instead.


You know, this post was actually supposed to be about something else entirely, but then it got to be all about first drafts. And dragons.

So hey, bonus! I get to save that other post for next week.